Shalom! It is Eliyahu, the Peaceable Pilgrim, here to regale you with more tales from the wonderful city of Jerusalem! Many changes are afoot, as it is a new year (according to the Jewish calendar) and as such is a time for new beginnings. The most notable one: A name change. Yes, that’s right, from this point forward I will now be known among my friends by my Hebrew name, Eliyahu. I am planning to make an announcement during the next Community Lunch at my school, and I’ve already announced the pending change to friends I’ve already come into contact with and on Facebook. I’m excited, as it is something I have wanted to do for years now, and I am happy to be finally making this change in a real, concrete way.
As for other changes, my whole LIFE is one big change! Everything I do here feels diametrically different than what I do back home, and CERTAINLY different from what I was able to do in Korea! But change is awesome, as the world is beginning to see with the death of Gaddafhi and the Occupy protests all over America. Change is happening, and it is exciting! But getting back to my life… there is sooo much to share! I know my last post was a month and a half ago, but I will do my best to fill you in on all that is going on in the life of the Peaceable Pilgrim in Jerusalem!
Firstly, and most significantly, it’s been almost a MONTH-LONG holiday season here in Israel! First we started with Rosh Hashana on September 29, which began the 10 days leading up to Yom Kippur, the day of repentance and also indicated the start of the Jewish New Year. They were busy times, with new students coming into classes, teachers finishing up their lesson plans before Sukkot break and just a general buzz of excitement and plans among all Pardes students. I went to many services with my Pardes friends at Kol Haneshama, the reform synagogue I mentioned in my last entry, and I even found a new minyan called Nava Tehila that is full of vibrancy, life and song which I have enjoyed being a part of. They don’t meet regularly, but when they do, lots of Pardes students go there to celebrate and pray.
Yom Kippur is a VERY interesting day in Jerusalem. It is the Shabbat of Shabbats, and this year, coincidentally, it actually FELL on Shabbat, so it was doubley powerful! The amazing thing about Yom Kippur is that because the whole country follows it, and it is one of the holiest days of the Jewish year, there are almost NO cars on the road and everyone just walks all over the streets. Jerusalem becomes one big park. On Friday night aftter Kol Nidrei services at Nava Tehila I and a few friends found ourselves on Emek Refaim, one of the main streets nearby with shops, restaurants, cafes and more where we just hung out literally on the street for more than an hour. During that hour many people we knew came by and joined our group, some staying for a few minutes and some for longer. It was like one big block party. Quite the amazing sight.
The next day, the actual day of Yom Kippur, everyone was feeling the hunger pangs but we made it through services at Kol Haneshama in the morning, and then I walked with some of my friends around the city to a park, then back home for a quick second, and then we were off to walk to the Old City so we could soak up the atmosphere. We ran into many different friends throughout our travels, and again it was quite amazing to see the city so quiet and peaceful. We went to the Western Wall, prayed, and then we finally separated and I walked back to Kol Haneshama for their reading of the Book of Jonah and their concluding service leading into the end of Yom Kippur. Then, it was off to a breakfast “Break the Fast” party at one of my fellow Pardes students’ apartments where many of my friends were. I had a great time, and it was an experience not to be forgotten.
After Yom Kippur we had 2 more days of school, and then we got an almost 2-week vacation! Starting Monday night we were off, and boy what a great vacation it was! Some highlights include:
- Seeing three movies at the movie theater nearby
- Eating many great meals with awesome people
- Going to three concerts in three different places and 2 different cities
- Getting out of Jerusalem and heading to the BEACH for a day
- RELAXING and taking it easy
- Meeting up with friends and just hanging out
I honestly wish chag (holiday) would never end, as it really allowed me to exercise my free-spirit tendencies, do some independent thinking and just get out of my routine, which I love. But tomorrow school starts again, and it’s back to the hectic schedule of craziness! It’s busy, but I guess in a way it’s good too. It’s what I signed up for, after all.
A few more things to mention: The trip I took to the beach was to the city of Haifa, which is up far to the north in Israel. I took a bus Monday afternoon, got to my hotel around 4:00, settled in, then walked downhill to this HUGE mall called Grand Canyon where I did hours of exploring, shopping and just enjoying myself. I bought something like 6 books at the book store, saw a clown performing for a bunch of children on the bottom floor and ate at a great restaurant where I had the most delicious chicken salad ever. After a few hours at the mall, I took a bus to the City Center where there were a LOT of people and a LOT going on. I followed the mass of people to one section where I had to go through security to get into this Arts & Crafts fair that was AWESOME. They had incredible food (I got sugar-coated hazelnuts, chocolate crepes and wine) and also a really cool art exhibit and a cinema that was playing a black and white movie on the wall of one of the buildings nearby. It was a very classy atmosphere with a lot of variety and interesting sights and smells. I greatly enjoyed myself for the hour or so that I was there.
After deciding to leave, I started walking further along the main road, passing street vendors and street musicians looking for change, and my ears came across the sound of music playing in the distance. I followed them, went through security again, and ended up at an Israeli rock concert that was freaking AWESOME! The band, who I asked someone nearby, was called Tome (pronounced toh-may) and they had a really great sound. High energy, great lyrics (of which I can only assume because they were in Hebrew, haha, but at least they were clear) and an all-around great performance. I caught maybe the last 45 minutes of their act and it was wonderful. I love live music so I was really happy to have stumbled upon it and have something to dance to surrounded by lots of cool people.
After the concert I took a taxi back to my hotel, got back around 11, read one of my books and finally fell asleep. The next morning I woke up for breakfast, then checked out and took all my stuff with me to the BEACH! I took a bus there, and it dropped me off at the Central Bus Station where I would be getting a ride back to Jerusalem later. The bus station was literally a 3-minute walk from the beach, so I headed out and found a section of the main beach that had a tall covered overhang and lots of chairs to sit on. I got 2 chairs, one for my stuff and one for me, and just lazed and relaxed. I went into the water, which felt amazing, and just let the waves wash over me as I enjoyed the sun and surf. This was what I had been needing for months, and I was so happy to finally be back home where I belonged. I read more of my book after getting out of the ocean, ate lunch at one of the nice beach cafes where I had a hamburger and a HUGE sangria that I couldn’t finish, then finally went back into the ocean, dried off, and got ready for the bus ride back to Jerusalem. It was an AWESOME mini vacation and I am so glad that I took it.
I’m sure there are many more stories to tell, of which I either can’t remember or don’t have the energy to share right now, but there’s always another day, and certainly more adventures to be had! Be content now, my friends, and look forward to next time. Until then, this is the Peaceable Pilgrim signing off. L’shana tova (which means To a good year)!
All the best,